WESTFIELD, NJ — The First Congregational Church of Westfield (FCC) recently welcomed home the largest contingent yet from its annual mission trip, a week of volunteerism and fellowship that has become an important summer tradition for the congregation.
The FCC contingent of 32 youth and seven adults was led by Rev. Dr. Mark Boyea, FCC senior minister; Rev. Joy Mounts, associate minister; and Joe Regan, assistant music director.
Middle and senior high students, friends, clergy members and chaperones traveled to San Antonio, Texas, in July to work with Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection (DOOR), a faith-based organization that emphasizes local immersion while working with inner-city communities.
Under the guidance of DOOR representatives from the Mennonite Church of San Antonio, FCC volunteers took public transportation to work sites throughout the city, including programs serving disabled children and adults, a homeless shelter and soup kitchen, the San Antonio food bank and a local Habitat for Humanity site. Students from the church also learned about the local Latino community through lectures and activities arranged by DOOR and toured the Alamo, RiverWalk and other local sites.
“This is our sixth Youth Fellowship Summer Mission Trip,” said Mounts. “Each year the youth and adults who participate come away enriched by the experience in so many ways—not only feeling that we have helped others but by what we have learned about ourselves, our faith and what we can accomplish in a short time.”
Ben Evans, a senior at Scotch Plain-Fanwood High School, participated in the trip.
“This year's mission trip was truly an experience like no other,” said Evans. “I had an amazing experience working with adults with developmental disabilities, as well as people who were homeless and working on houses at a Habitat for Humanity build site. As always, it was not only a great learning experience, but also a great ‘doing’ experience, because we could walk away feeling that not only had we made a positive impact on communities but also that those communities had had a positive impact on us.”
Previous mission trips by FCC included sites in New Orleans, Ohio, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Wyoming. Fundraisers held throughout the year, including a tag sale, pancake breakfast, spaghetti supper and talent show, help underwrite the cost of travel.
“The congregation is a huge supporter of the summer mission trip,” said Mounts. “Outreach is important to our congregation. Not only does the congregation help with the trip fundraisers throughout the year but also supports the participants with prayer, enthusiasm and cheering us on. We couldn't do it without them!”
Chaperones included Cindy Boyea, Marion Gordon, Cynthia LaPera, and Terry Van Liew. Student representatives included Brandon Gloeggler of Clark; Emily Norwine and Courtney Van Liew of Cranford; Ben Evans, Ian and Lia Gordon, Samantha Gorman, Chelsea Mills and Dylan Voltz of Fanwood; and Mike Bonnell, Kelsey Boyea, Daniel Federico, Ani Hsu Obrock, Isaac and Taylor Scott, and Kate Traina of Scotch Plains. Westfield residents included Grace and Nora Brindle, Charlotte and Ceci Fountain Jardim, Samantha Gargiulo, Jaime Gunchar, Alison Jaruzelski; Chandler, Jordan, Logan and Kendall Robertson, Hope Rothenberg, Jonathan Saminski and Chris Zdenek. Joe Diez of Highland Park and Elizabeth Snyder Mounts of Myrtle Beach rounded out the group.
First Congregational Church, a member of the United Church of Christ, is located at 125 Elmer Street in Westfield. For additional information on youth fellowship and outreach opportunities, call 908-233-2494 or visit fccofwestfield.org.